Due to COVID-19, NCAA basketball came to a screeching halt and with the season officially over, we can only imagine an NCAA Tournament that might have been. It’s a tragedy that there’s no March Madness this season as it is both the players and fans favorite time of the year, but obviously a necessary precaution. After some time to let everything sink in, here is the final Power 16 of the season. These rankings will focus on team’s full body of work for the year. Also, the Players of the Week will be turned into the Players of the Year.
1. Kansas (28-3)
The Jayhawks definitely had momentum going into the postseason, but throughout the season they were unquestionably one of, if not the best team in the country. Kansas’ only losses came to Duke, Villanova and Baylor (three elite teams) and also had a win over Dayton and avenged the loss to Baylor. The Big 12, while top-heavy, did have some depth to it but the Jayhawks never faltered. A long way removed from the brawl earlier in the year, this would have been my pick to cut down the nets.
2. Gonzaga (31-2)
Gonzaga was one of the few teams that actually won their conference tournament before things got shut down. Conference champions, a 31-2 record and ranked wins, once again the Zags put together a masterful season. While often criticized for the “weak” schedule, the Bulldogs did add wins over Oregon, a then-ranked Washington and Arizona throughout the year. I do wish that Gonzaga changed conferences, but with the level of success year-in and year-out, why fix what isn’t broke.
3. Dayton (29-2)
The surprise team in the country was the A-10’s own Dayton. This team’s only losses came to Kansas and Colorado, both in overtime. Think about that, no team could beat Dayton within 40 minutes this season. The one knock on the resume is that there isn’t a ranked win, but the level at which the Flyers dominated the conference makes up for it. Dayton had a weird mix of believers and doubters that predicted anything from a national title to a second-round exit. While I believe it would’ve been somewhere in between that, there’s no taking away the magical season from the Flyers.
4. Baylor (26-4)
As crazy as this season was with No. 1 ranked teams losing left and right, Baylor was able to hold onto that top spot for quite some time and that deserves recognition. The Bears did fall off a bit as the season was coming to a close, but that doesn’t diminish what the team accomplished beforehand. Wins over Villanova, Arizona, Butler and Kansas all helped push the Bears to the forefront of the national title conversation.
5. San Diego State (30-2)
I’m as disappointed as anybody that SDSU couldn’t even win their own conference title after the miraculous 26-0 start to the season, but you still have to give it up to the Aztecs for being (by far) the last remaining undefeated team in the nation. Two late season losses hurt, but the resume still holds wins over BYU, Creighton, Iowa, and both teams that had beaten them. Teams like San Diego State and Dayton is what makes no NCAA Tournament hurt the most, we might never see these programs be this good again.
6. Kentucky (25-6)
The Wildcats came a long way from losing to Evansville in the opening month of the season. Kentucky finished as the regular season SEC champions and by a good three-game margin. Big Blue Nation saw their team take wins over then-No. 1 ranked Michigan State, Louisville and Auburn as well as become one of the most consistent teams in the second half of the season. This team had some star power that just seemed ready to blast off in the postseason.
7. Duke (25-6)
Duke gets the nod over FSU due to a head-to-head win and slightly better resume overall. The Blue Devils, despite their inconsistencies, tallied wins over Kansas, Michigan State, Florida State and two wins over rival UNC (I know they’re bad, but still, it’s Duke-UNC). There was never a question about the level of talent on the Blue Devils’ roster, just how the on-court product would play out, and for the most part it was pretty good. Duke could’ve won it all or gotten bounced early this year, but we’ll never know.
8. Florida State (26-5)
In a year where the ACC was weak, compared to years past, Florida State was the team who took advantage. The Seminoles took home the regular season crown thanks to some wins over Louisville (twice) and Virginia. FSU went a perfect 16-0 at home this year and was a legit contender for the national championship.
9. Oregon (24-7)
Most people won’t have Oregon this high, but I absolutely respect what this team accomplished this year. The Ducks without a doubt had the hardest non-conference schedule and also had to play in a relatively deep conference. They beat a full-strength Memphis, Seton Hall, then-No. 5 Michigan and Arizona (twice). Of the seven losses, a 1-point loss to Gonzaga in OT and a 4-point loss to a full-strength UNC. By the way, 17-0 at home, all losses came on the road.
10. Villanova (24-7)
Villanova had a deceptively impressive season. With wins over Kansas, Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall, a top ten ranking is well deserved. They tied for the Big East title and were able to emerge pretty well off in the loaded top half of the conference. The odds of Nova winning it all were limited, but there was a real shot at this team making a deep run.
11. Creighton (24-7)
The Blue Jays were behind Villanova most of the season, but an incredible late-season run helped even the race in the Big East. Creighton had wins against Villanova, Seton Hall (twice) and Butler in the last month and a half of the season alone. In terms of a full body of work, Nova gets the edge on the whole season consistency, but since the start of February, this was arguably the best team in the nation.
12. Maryland (24-7)
The Big Ten was an absolute madhouse this year, and for a majority of the season Maryland was the top dog in the conference. Wins over Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan make for a good resume, but there are also a couple questionable losses. A sub-.500 record on the road hurts, but then again only one team, MSU, had above a .500 road record in the conference.
13. Virginia (23-7)
Despite having a rough start to the year and a limited offense, once again Virginia’s defensive prowess was able to propel the team to a respectable season. The Cavaliers beat a full-strength UNC, Florida State, Duke and Louisville. It would be a miracle if UVA broke 60 points in any game this season, but they did what they had to do to win games and that’s all that really matters.
14. Michigan State (22-9)
The Spartans fell off quickly in the middle of the season, but bounced back in a big way to close the year. MSU had wins over Seton Hall, Illinois (twice), Michigan, Iowa, Maryland, Penn State and Ohio State. The 9 in the loss column is what holds Michigan State back from being ranked higher because their quality of wins is up with the best of them. An up and down year for sure, but Tom Izzo always figures things out.
15. Louisville (24-7)
The Cardinals were once considered the best team in the country, and while they have fallen off, they still finish as one of the elite teams. Louisville beat a then-top-ranked Michigan, Duke and Virginia but honestly have some bad losses in there as well. I was personally never as big on the Cards as most of the country, but still have to recognize their full body of work.
16. Auburn (25-6)
Auburn was one of the weirdest teams in the country this season. The Tigers had one of the best records, but couldn’t seem to get the quality wins needed to boost themselves up the rankings. The only ranked win was against Kentucky, who they lost to later in the year. Regardless of the strength of schedule, a 25-6 record in a Power 5 conference deserves some recognition.
Next Five: Seton Hall, Ohio State, BYU, Butler, Wisconsin
Players of the Year
1. Luka Garza – Iowa
Any follower of these articles knows Luka Garza has been on the Player of the Week section seemingly every week. He’s my pick for Player of the Year with a per game average of 23.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 assists. He shot 54.2% from the field and 35.8% from behind the arc. In my mind, this is an easy choice.
2. Obi Toppin – Dayton
Obi Toppin is the clear second choice for Player of the Year, and some will consider him the top choice. He led Dayton on an incredible run and the best season in program history. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Toppin shot 63.3 percent from the floor and 39.0% from three-point range.
3. Markus Howard – Marquette
Markus Howard is another familiar face on this list, his scoring has always been incredible as he has now amassed over 2,000 career points, and he led the country in scoring this season. A final total of 27.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game is nothing short of incredible. He shot 41.2% from three-point range, and he shot A LOT of threes this season. An amazing career capped off by an amazing season.
4. Tre Jones – Duke
Either Jones or Vernon Carey could’ve made this list for the Blue Devils, but I give the edge to Jones. He is arguably the best on-ball defender in the country and was the floor general on one of the best teams. Jones averaged 16.2 points, 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Outside of that, Jones is the type of player that makes the defensive plays that doesn’t show up in the box score. Defense is constantly undervalued, but not here.
5. Payton Pritchard – Oregon
Payton Pritchard definitely deserves a look for Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 assists per game. Pritchard is also one of the smartest players in the country, constantly making the right play and keeping his team in the game during clutch scenarios. He shot 41.5% from deep and always seemed to hit the big shot when needed the most.